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Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: I met a guy in 2011 and we fell in love. At the time he had a girlfriend and she was pregnant, but I was OK with it! She found out and started sending me insulting messages to which I never responded.

At the end of 2011, I broke up with the guy because I wanted him to be a good father and boyfriend to the baby and lady. In 2012, the lady befriended me and we became close. I’ve always had contact with the guy and he promised me that one day we will be together.

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Now they broke up and the guy asked me to give our relationship a chance. How and when do I tell her I’m planning on giving my relationship with him a chance?

— S

DEAR S: Tell her as soon as you’re ready for her to dump you — and to recognize you befriended her as a convenience while you waited for her child’s father to come back on the market.

I suggest also waiting until you’re ready to see that her dim view of your character will be dead-on accurate — that is, if you proceed with your plan to claim the spoils of not just waiting for this little family to fail, but also helping it fail by staying romantically in touch with this guy throughout.

So when you’re ready to face the reality of being that person, go for it. If you’re not ready, please take a hard look at who you’ve become.

DEAR CAROLYN: I’ve been in a relationship for 10 years. We split a year ago and I moved on, but he wanted to try again. I did, too.

I think the time apart did worlds for us, but now I see an old problem creeping back: We define our future differently. He wants to continue our two-city commute I can only do that if I feel like I have two homes.

He has helped to shape ours here (new place, buying furniture together), but he won’t change anything at his.

I’ve tried everything but an ultimatum. It’s not my style nor do I think it’d be well-received. I love him, but I love feeling like I’m home with him more. Thoughts?

— Not So Sure Now

DEAR NOT SO SURE NOW: I never want to be the messenger of shouldas, but this one’s glaring: While you were still discussing it was the time to draw this line.

It’s not impossible now, it’s just harder because you don’t have the natural leverage afforded to you by the open question of whether you’d get back together. Now you have to spell out your terms.

You need to talk about it so take care to frame it not in terms of consequences to him, but to you.

Start by taking responsibility.

Then state the need: “I love you. I also love feeling like I’m at home. I still don’t feel at home at your place.”

Then state the significance.

The unspoken question you’re asking here is, “Will you do this because it matters to me?” where an ultimatum would ask, “Will you do this because I’m taking hostage something that matters to you?”

It’s not about the substance of what you’re asking; one half of a couple is always free to ask and the other half is always free to say no and both are free to decide how to handle the relationship based on the outcome. What’s relevant is the difference between asking him to give to you, and threatening to take from him. The former stays on your side of the line, the latter crosses it.

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